A word for our sponsors

A word for our sponsors

i Apr 29th No Comments by

Many hands make light work. For
28 years ALTA has trained and managed scores of volunteers to ensure a high
standard of delivery of the only national programme of literacy instruction for
adults. The course content and materials design have all been created in-house
by dedicated educators led by ALTA’s CEO and Founder Paula-Lucie-Smith, with
the goal of bringing reading and writing within reach. People are at ALTA’s
core. Through their tangible investment, our dedicated sponsors lend a helping
hand and become part of this core support.

Committed sponsors have always
been integral to ALTA’s work to bring literacy into every home. They share our
passion and support our work to develop, expand, and improve upon our offerings
to the public. Today we highlight them for their generosity and thank them for
placing their trust in us. One such sponsor is long-standing partner, Republic
Bank Limited, through their Power to Make a Difference initiative.

Republic Bank has provided
support to a number of our free community classes, the development of ALTA’s
web-based literacy instruction tool ALTA Online and to ALTA’s Reading Circles.
What a difference we will make as ALTA Online continues to shatter barriers to
literacy by bringing the classroom to the student!

As ALTA’s Youth Lit sponsor,
the Bermudez Biscuit Company ensures that students aged 9 to 15 are able to
acquire the reading skill they need to succeed in school and beyond.
Precipitated by the pandemic, ALTA has developed ALTA-V, which allows for the
teaching of literacy via Zoom. Youth Lit students who are currently in the
formal school system have also benefitted from this shift to ALTA’s virtual
classroom and from ALTA Online.

Youth Lit Coordinator, Judith
Affoo explained she sees “an even greater need for the Youth Lit programme as
many would have been left even further behind unable to cope with the virtual
schoolwork.” The youngsters in this highly subscribed programme are grateful
for Bermudez Biscuit Company’s continued pledge of support.

In 2020, ALTA was given the nod
as The National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago’s Above and Beyond Stand
Tall awardee. With this award came the means to execute our I am ALTA student
registration campaign, the pilot of the ALTA Online programme and the
production of the soon to be launched ALTA Spelling Chart.

The Fernandes Foundation has
also been a welcome partner, with recent support of operational costs not
traditionally covered by donors.

Phoenix Park Gas Processors
Limited has championed the cause of literacy and ALTA’s work in the field for a
number of years. ALTA was recently recognized as the beneficiary of PPGPL’s
Gift to the Nation. The award was an investment in our resource capacity as it
facilitated ALTA’s Tutor Training Course in 2020 – giving us the funding to
develop and deliver the first virtual tutor training. PPGPL’s corporate social
responsibility is also extended to sponsorship of students in their fence line
communities in Central Trinidad.

We acknowledge Price
Philanthropies for their quiet support of ALTA’s work through multi-year Deeds
of Covenant, which ensure continuity of our free community classes in East
Trinidad. So too has the Massy Foundation been a significant supporter of our
community classes in and around Port of Spain.

ALTA is also honoured to thank
our many student sponsors and private donors both cash and in-kind, some of
whom choose to remain anonymous. Their contributions go a long way in helping
us in our mission to empower lives through literacy.

Together we lighten the shared
work of helping our fellow citizens.

If you or someone you know is
interested in becoming a tutor, joining a class, or becoming a sponsor, call
624-2582 or email altapos.tt@gmail.com.

Keep up to date with ALTA on
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ALTA Youth Lit in Virtual Motion

i Apr 22nd No Comments by

ALTA Youth Lit Coordinator and
tutor Judith Affoo continues her account of teaching the ALTA literacy
programme to teens and pre-teens. This week Judith describes the impact of
Covid-19 on Youth Lit.

The last intake of Youth Lit students started in October 2019. On the 13th March 2020 classes were suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Initially, we thought this would be for a limited time and at some point, classes would resume. Plans for this were made, but they could not be implemented as schools remained shut.

Towards the end of 2020 we
realized this was not going to be possible. To complete the programme, a
decision was made to offer the Level 2 children virtual classes using Zoom and
to offer the Level 1 students ALTA Online. Nine Level 1 students had personal
computers with internet access and have been working through ALTA Online Book
1, now largely independently. We continue to work to find a way for the other
Level 1 students to gain access to web-enabled computers to improve their
literacy via ALTA Online.

As the start day for the
virtual classes approached, I was excited about seeing the children again. On
the first day, however, it was apparent that these were not the same children.
They were lethargic and apathetic and a shadow of their former selves. Many
were home alone all day unsupervised as their parents were working.

Despite the fact that they said
they had been doing online school, they had regressed with their reading
ability. I realized that this was going to be a challenge and that I had to
find some way to engage them. The first task was to get them to keep their cameras
on as they were accustomed to doing school classes with their cameras off.

The next step was to get them
involved in doing something. We started with reviewing spelling words by using
the chat feature. I would call a word and they would type the word in the chat
to the whole group. This proved a success and something they enjoyed while
learning the spelling at the same time.

Reading was done in pairs using
the breakout room feature. The students enjoyed working with a partner to
decode words and later on I introduced challenges and puzzles for them to
solve. I also gave them the opportunity to share their screen with the class to
show something they had written. It was heartening to see some of the children
become excited about the classes with many saying they were sorry for the
classes to end.

Looking forward, I hope for the
children’s sake that we get them back to in-person school soon. I see an even
greater need for the Youth Lit Programme as many would have been left even
further behind unable to cope with the virtual schoolwork.

On behalf of ALTA and the
students of Youth Lit, I would like to thank NALIS and the Bermudez Biscuit
Company for making this programme possible. Together we can ensure that many
more children will receive the help they need for many years to come.

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a tutor, joining a class, or becoming a sponsor, call 624-2582 or email altapos.tt@gmail.com.

Keep up to date with ALTA on
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ALTA Youth Lit – An Opportunity to Shine

i Apr 15th No Comments by

From the time Judith Affoo
trained as a volunteer ALTA tutor in 2009, she has given wholeheartedly to ALTA
and to her students, taking on many roles from tutor trainer and class
coordinator to North Regional Coordinator and Youth Lit Coordinator. The most
challenging of Judith’s roles, and at the same time the most rewarding, is
teaching a Youth Lit class.

In this article and next
week’s, Judith describes her Youth Lit experience. Today she explores her
experience teaching in-person classes, and next week describes Youth Lit in the
Covid era.

The Youth Lit programme is a
collaboration between ALTA and NALIS that started in 2008 for children aged 9
to 15 who need remedial help with reading and writing and whose needs are not
being addressed in the schools. In 2017 the Bermudez Biscuit Company took over
the funding of the programme.

We have classes in 10 libraries
around the country with a total of 12 tutors. I have been a tutor since 2010
and feel privileged to have had the opportunity to work with so many children
over the years.

The children are taught using
the regular ALTA programme for adults but it is tweaked to make it appeal to
children. Tutors keep Youth Lit classes fun. The children we have in our
classes have spent many years in a traditional classroom setting and it is not
working for them. By the time we get them into the programme many have developed
a “can’t do” attitude and feel school work is not for them.

Some have developed coping
strategies such as switching off or becoming the class clown that are not
conducive to learning. We have a mix of students with learning disabilities
such as Dyslexia and ADD. Some are suffering from trauma that makes learning
difficult. The children we get in our classes are the ones who have difficulty
sitting still and who frequently get into trouble in school. So, to help them,
we strive to make Youth Lit different.

Classes are small with no more
than ten students so the children can get individual attention. Tutors try to
create a relaxed environment where the children are free to express themselves.
Talking is allowed and even encouraged as we have group discussions on many
topics pertinent to life in Trinidad and Tobago.

We use a lot of manipulative
learning aids suitable for tactile learners, and games are used in every class
to reinforce what has been taught. The children have a lot of energy so it is a
pleasure to see them putting it into the games and learning at the same time. I
look for opportunities for each child to shine whether it is winning a game,
going up to the board to do an example or reading a piece of their writing.

My goal as a Youth Lit tutor is
to see not only an improvement in my students’ reading and writing but also for
them to graduate from the programme feeling that education is for them.

The children have so many
talents and strengths, but because they are failing in school they feel bad about
themselves. Every session they attend, I try to change that. I give a lot of
encouragement and praise, and what makes it all worthwhile for me is seeing
them smile when they realise they can do this.

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a tutor, joining a class, or becoming a sponsor, call 624-2582 or email altapos.tt@gmail.com.

Keep up to date with ALTA on
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i Apr 12th No Comments by


Going Above and Beyond with NGC

i Apr 8th No Comments by

ALTA is honoured to have been selected The National Gas Company Limited’s Above and Beyond Stand Tall Awardee of 2020. The award is an acknowledgment of ALTA’s success in the sphere of adult education over the past 28 years. It was also tangible support that enabled us to accomplish a number of critical tasks on our schedule of activity, including the Stand Tall – I am ALTA campaign, the ALTA Spelling Project and the ALTA Online Pilot.

This commitment by NGC to the
national community has been a significant boost in what has been a year of
challenge and change for us all caused by the pandemic.

The Stand Tall – I am ALTA
campaign brought our literacy students into focus, centering their journeys to
literacy on their own terms and in their own words. We thank featured ALTA
students Stephan, Bernadette and Radha for their candor as they shared their
stories in our successful TV, radio and digital media student registration

Thanks to their contributions,
students answered the call to join our newly developed ALTA-V classes. They
helped to bring awareness to the realities of life without literacy and the
satisfaction in transitioning to a new life with ALTA’s help.

ALTA’s entry into the virtual world meant the opportunity to include Tobago-based students once again. NGC certainly put action behind their focus on the community when they lent their logistical resources to this effort, getting ALTA materials across to Tobago on our behalf in time for the start of term.

I am ALTA also included the ALTA
Tutor Talks video series on social media. The series captured the volunteer
tutor viewpoint, demystifying the ALTA classroom for potential students and
also highlighted Level 2 ALTA student Deborah’s positive experience. In a word
of encouragement to fellow students, Deborah remarked that ALTA tutors were
“simply amazing” and “give you the energy to continue to do more.”

The ALTA Spelling Project
brings spelling into focus, as a unique need. The ALTA Spelling Chart
conceptualized by Paula Lucie-Smith and Marise Warner is a quick-reference tool
that gets students to the correct spelling choices using an easy-to-follow
graphical layout. The ALTA Spelling Dictionary which details spelling choices,
strategies and Standard English grammar for students and its companion the ALTA
Spelling Chart, will be distributed to select school teachers and students
committed to working with these tools to improve spelling.

The NGC-sponsored ALTA Online Pilot brought ALTA’s web-based application out of development and into the hands of users. To meet physical distancing requirements, this initiative needed to be redesigned from the original concept of an in-person trial. With NGC’s support, ALTA rose to the challenge, culminating in 70 users benefitting from access to the literacy platform during Pilot 1 from May-August.

Pilot 1 provided invaluable
feedback that has helped shape ALTA Online and improved the processes for Pilot
2 which is currently in progress. The accompanying survey tool crafted with
technical input by Reanti Singh and Keren Wilson of the UWI Campus Office of
Planning and Institutional Research showed that most users preferred ALTA
Online to the classroom, with over 90% being willing to recommend ALTA Online
to others to improve their reading and writing.

In an environment of
diminishing support, NGC has certainly stepped up to go above and beyond. ALTA
looks forward to further strengthening our relationship as we empower adults
through reading and writing.

If you or someone you know is
interested in becoming a tutor, joining a class, or becoming a sponsor, call
624-2582 or email altapos.tt@gmail.com.

Keep up to date with ALTA on
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: ALTA TT

ALTA in 2020 – A Story of Resilience

i Apr 1st No Comments by

Last week’s feature covered the
first half of ALTA Board Chairman, Nigel Baptiste’s Chairman’s Report,
delivered at ALTA’s 2020 AGM, the first ever held virtually on Zoom, on
Saturday 13 February. Today we continue our look back at ALTA in 2020 as we
review the association’s accomplishments in the second half of the report.

The other big achievement for
2020 was ALTA-V classes delivered via Zoom, which was not in the minds of
anyone when we last spoke in 2019 but was sparked by Covid. ALTA’s
responsiveness to the challenges posed by the pandemic is at the core of what
can best be described as our third accomplishment: our resilience.

When all classrooms closed on
13 March 2020, ALTA Regional Coordinators immediately started working to
complete the academic year with as many students as possible. Here, we
acknowledge and thank ALTA’s National Coordinator, Lystra Hazarie, and the
entire team of Regional Coordinators, for their work to develop virtual

Here’s what we did:

1. Pilot virtual teaching of
each level except Beginner

2. ALTA Student Online
Readiness Survey to identify students with web-enabled devices

3. Zoom and WhatsApp classes
with small groups of students

These combined efforts enabled ALTA
to maximise student attendance in Zoom/WhatsApp ALTA classes for Term 3 from
April-July 2020.

  • 48% in Port of Spain East and West
  • 41% in East and Mid-East
  • 41% in South and Central

During the lockdown, ALTA was
proud to partner with UWTT’s COVID-19 Response & Recovery Fund.

  • ALTA was one of 10 NGO partners who identified stakeholders in need of financial assistance
  • 25 ALTA students’ families received aid between May and August through this fund

Thanks once again to United Way
Trinidad and Tobago for this much needed initiative and to ALTA’s National Coordinator
Lystra and East Regional Coordinator Carolyn Walker-Hepburn for efficiently
coordinating this process.

In July, it became clear that
there would be no return to the classroom in September, and the race to get ALTA-V
structured and staffed was on!

This was accomplished by:

  • The development of the ALTA Online Tutor Training Book
  • The filming of 10 training videos filmed in July featuring expert tutors Judy Sewsaran, Sylvia Gordon, Judith Affoo and Debbie Dowlath.

Facilitating interactive volunteer sessions using free Zoom lead by a trained facilitator for a mixed group of 6 continuing and new tutors.

Our heartfelt thanks go to the
tutor trainers and the 150 new and continuing ALTA volunteers who have embraced
the ALTA-V challenge – a learning experience for us all!

The NGC-sponsored Stand Tall I
am ALTA student registration campaign on TV, radio and social media featured a
record number of 8 ALTA student ambassadors and featured writing produced at
the start of 2020 for the international magazine Women’s Perspectives. This
year 16 pieces from our female students in Level 3 and the Spelling Programme
were submitted under the theme “The Hero’s Journey: Where are you on your
journey?” and all were published.

The I am ALTA campaign started
on Sept 6 with the NGC-sponsored “Trinidad is a Real Place” on TTT which was
all about ALTA.

Our student testimonies got the
response we wanted. Not only did students new to ALTA sign up, but many past
students seized the opportunity to have ALTA instruction in their home. For the
first time, ALTA was able to include students in Tobago with book sale services
offered for no commission by AJ’s Accessories and General Store in Scarborough.

Converting to virtual classes
called for a massive team effort by all ALTA staff, Regional Coordinators and
tutors. In this most difficult of years, ALTA staff have without a doubt lived
up to the Above and Beyond award given to ALTA.

Working remotely, staff have
ignored the workday end time – working until what they have to do is done. In a
year when so many education services contracted, each of our staff has
contributed to shaping and expanding into new ALTA services.

Each has embraced the slogan of
2020: Stand tall – I am ALTA.

If the Board and Members are to
take away one thing from this presentation it would be ALTA’s deep gratitude
for their contributions throughout 2020. ALTA’s successful transition from
in-person to virtual teaching was owed to these efforts. I thank all present
for their commitment and support as we move into the future and am hopeful we
will succeed in accomplishing our mission.

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a tutor, joining a class, or becoming a sponsor, call 624-2582 or email altapos.tt@gmail.com.

Keep up to date with ALTA on
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: ALTA TT